Sun, percussion, and yang energy

Noridan percussionist

Jennifer Barclay celebrates her first anniversary with LKL with her report from the second Dano Korean Summer Festival

The sound of percussion crept around Trafalgar Square as a strange vehicle circled the fountains and wheeled into view: a tall Mad Max-style contraption with coloured flags waving from poles, people dressed in black and orange hanging off the sides and beating at bizarre instruments: sheets of metal arranged as a xylophone, black rubber tubes, drums made from steel wheels.

It sounds like it should produce an unpleasant cacophony, but the truth was far from it. These energetic people were skilled musicians and created harmonious music that captured everyone’s attention.

Noridan

As the human-powered ‘Sprocket’ came to a halt in the middle of the square, crowds gathered to watch the talented group run about, leap in the air and bash gleefully at instruments made from recycled materials. When Koreans start drumming, it’s something special, so when they picked up their selection of proper drums it was a thrilling experience. This group from Seoul called Noridan was for many the highlight of the second Dano festival in central London on 8 June 2008. If you weren’t there, I’m afraid you lost out, as they’re on their way back to Seoul almost immediately. South Korea’s first ‘social enterprise’ in the arts, they create programmes for teenagers with themes like ‘Upgrade Yourself’ and they promote recycling, play and imagination. They deserve to do very well.

Sun in Trafalgar Square

What a fun afternoon it was, aided by the hot, sunny weather that had everyone fanning themselves. This year’s festival was sponsored by LG (slogan – ‘Life’s Good’)1 and coincided with the first week in London of the new South Korean Ambassador Chun Yung-woo, who seemed to be enjoying this rather impressive welcoming party. Once again there was a delightful cultural mix out to celebrate the positive ‘yang’ energy that Dano’s all about.

Trying on hanbok

The Korean Cultural Centre had cleverly provided traditional clothing for anyone to try, and it was great to watch older Indian couples have their photos taken in colourful hanbok, while the fan-making and paper-folding craft tents provided entertainment for young kids. Seoul was being promoted as a perfect ‘stopover city’ with pretty free gifts and information, and as usual there was a tempting though sinful array of Korean food being cooked up right there, like sweet and sour chicken and fried dumplings, barbecued beef and of course rice cakes in spicy sauce.

Taroo

The choice of performances was eclectic. I arrived to see a contemporary pop opera about an ordinary Mr Kim who works in a factory but quits his job to market a new product: five minutes of time. He is dogged by many problems, such as the supermarket’s exchange and returns policy. Yes, it was very strange with spacey costumes, but according to the troupe Taroo (above), this five minutes could bring ‘comfort and freedom back to the people pressed for time’ – which can speak to Londoners as well as Seoulites.

Lee Chul Jin

Another act was the slow, precise, traditional dancing of Lee Chul Jin in flowing robes (above), aimed at promoting positive energy throughout the ‘village’ of London. And the loud Korean rock music found fans also, although I can’t say I was one of them, and I found the Guy Barker jazz quintet rather out of place and a poor substitute for 2007’s B-boys. I hope one year we might see some traditional Dano activities such as iris hair treatments and ssirum wrestling, but I suppose all the experts are busy doing such things in Korea at this time of year. In any case, the organisers did a wonderful job of providing something lively for everyone, as was attested by the happy crowds all afternoon. All surely came away with a better understanding of and interest in South Korea – and that’s what this Trafalgar Square event is all about.

Links

All photos are by Jennifer Barclay apart from the one of people trying on hanbok, which is kindly provided by Neusa Gomes of the LKL Facebook Group.

  1. Don’t forget the other generous sponsors: Asiana, who were the only commercial sponsor last year, plus the Korea Foundation, the Korea Tourism Organisation, Seoul Metropolitan Government, the KCC, and the Ministry of Culture Sports & Tourism – Ed []

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